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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a type of obstructive lung disease characterised by chronically poor airflow. COPD typically worsens over time; the main symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, and sputum production. Tobacco smoking is the most common cause of COPD, with a number of other factors such as air pollution and genetics playing a smaller role. COPD is a serious lung disease for which smoking is the biggest preventable risk factor. Smokers can often dismiss the early signs of COPD as a ‘smoker’s cough’, but if they continue smoking and the condition worsens, it can greatly impact on their quality of life. Early detection and abstinence from smoking can reduce or prevent damage to the lungs.

Facts and Figure

Prevalence of COPD

For further information regarding the source of QOF prevalence data and its limitations please see Note on QOF Data.

In 2017/18 6,415 people had been identified by NHS Blackpool CCG GP practices as living with COPD.1 It is estimated that this accounts for only 82% of the total population in Blackpool living with COPD and there are likely to be approximately 1,400 people with undiagnosed COPD.2

Figure 1 shows that 3.6% of NHS Blackpool CCG's registered population, are recorded as living with COPD. The indicator is located outside the 3rd standard deviation meaning that Blackpool has a significantly higher prevalence of COPD than the average of English CCGs (1.9)%. NHS Blackpool CGG is shown as the purple marker in figure 1, with all other CCGs shown in blue.

Figure 1 - COPD Prevalence Funnel Plot Analysis at CCG Level (2017/18 QOF)

Source: Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF)

Figure 2 shows all the GP practices that make up NHS Blackpool CCG. The practices with the highest recorded prevalence of COPD have a rate that is double those with the lowest.

Figure 2 - COPD Prevalence Funnel Plot Analysis at GP Level (2017/18 QOF)

Source: Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF)

The GP practices highlighted in dark purple have a significantly lower prevalence of COPD compared to the Blackpool average.


The GP practices highlighted in dark pink have a significantly higher prevalence of COPD compared to the Blackpool average.


Hospital Activity

In the period April 2013 to March 2018 there were an average of 690 emergency admissions due to COPD for Blackpool residents each year. This is a rate nearly twice as high as for England as a whole.3

Mortality from COPD

Between 2015 and 2017 there were 425 deaths in Blackpool where COPD was the primary cause, an average of 142 deaths each year. The directly standardised mortality rate (in this case per 100,000 population) is calculated to allow comparison between geographies of different population sizes and with different gender and age make ups. Figure 3 shows that the rate of mortality caused by COPD, is significantly higher in Blackpool (97.8 per 100,000) than the national average of 52.7 per 100,000.

Figure 3 - Mortality from COPD, Persons, 2015-17 - Lowe Tier Local Authorities

Source: PHE, Local Tobacco Profiles

Figure 4 shows the trend in mortality from COPD, comparing Blackpool to the North West and England. While the mortality rate in Blackpool has been significantly higher than the England rate over the period reported, there is considerable fluctuation in the Blackpool rate due to the relatively small numbers of deaths where COPD is recorded as a primary cause. However, the general trend has been an increase in mortality from COPD since 2007-09 while the England rate has remained stable.

Figure 4 - Trend in COPD mortality 2001-03 to 2015-17

Source: PHE, Local Tobacco Profiles

Figure 5 shows the difference in mortality rates from COPD for males and females. It can be seen that while Blackpool does have significantly higher mortality rates than the England average, the rates are broadly 1.5 times higher in males than females at the local and national level.

Figure 5 - Mortality from COPD, males and females, England, the North West and Blackpool, 2015-17

Source: PHE, Local Tobacco Profiles

National and local strategies (current best practices)

Risk Factor

Smoking is the main cause of COPD and is thought to be responsible for around 90% of cases. The lining of the airways becomes inflamed and permanently damaged by smoking and this damage cannot be reversed. Up to 25% of smokers develop COPD. Exposure to other people's smoke through passive smoking increases the risk of COPD.4 

[1]PHE, National General Practice Profiles

[2] PHE, Disease and risk factor prevalence

[3] PHE, Local Tobacco Control Profiles for England

[4] NHS Choices, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)